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My Take: Momma’s boy Tim Tebow meets playboy Tom Brady
Tim Tebow is having a great year, but the author says his appeal runs much deeper.
January 13th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: Momma’s boy Tim Tebow meets playboy Tom Brady

Editor’s note: Patton Dodd is the managing editor of Patheos and the author of The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football’s Most Polarizing Player.

By Patton Dodd, Special to CNN

Denver, Colorado (CNN) - A few weeks ago, a joke made its way around Denver about Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ living legend, and Tim Tebow, the raw Broncos quarterback who is turning in a legendary season. It went something like this:

Tom Brady dies and goes to heaven and is greeted by God, who shows him to his new house – a cozy, modest home with a Patriots flag flying from the porch. “Gee, thanks God!” says Brady, feeling very special.

As Brady walks to his door, he notices another house down the street – a sprawling, gorgeous home with a 50-foot pole flying a Broncos flag, a swimming pool shaped like a horse, and a Tim Tebow jersey pinned to the front door.

“Um, God?” Brady begins. “I’m not ungrateful, but I don’t get it. I won three Super Bowls and went to the Hall of Fame. Why does Tim Tebow get a better house than me?”

God chuckles. “That’s not Tim’s house,” he replies. “That’s mine.”

It’s not a very good joke, but it neatly summarizes cultural attitudes toward Brady and Tebow, whose teams meet this weekend in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Brady is a quarterback’s quarterback; his fellow players voted him the best player in football at the beginning of 2011, and he rewarded their admiration with another spectacular season. He’s been at this for a while – he was the winningest playoff quarterback of the last decade – and he’s settled into a life reserved only for guys like him: really good at sports, plus really, really, really good-looking.

Brady dated actress Tara Reid during his initial rise to fame, then settled into a relationship with actress Bridget Moynahan, with whom he had a child.

By the time the child was born, Brady had moved on to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, to whom he’s now married and with whom he’s built a Brentwood, California mansion. (Forbes named them the world’s highest-paid celebrity couple.)

Brady’s post-game press conferences can be fashion shows. When my wife and I lived in Boston, we would watch Patriots game coverage until the conference began so we could spy Brady’s gingham shirts, thick-knotted ties, and pocket squares. No matter how tough a game he played, Brady looked ready for the red carpet. The man can wear a suit.

Tebow is something else altogether – an apparently God-blessed raw talent who wins games with a little bit of passing and a whole lot of prayer. Haters aside, he’s the most popular athlete in the nation.

He’s also made football itself more popular this year, drawing in admirers who wouldn’t be watching otherwise. Last weekend’s Broncos-Steelers matchup drew the highest television ratings in the history of the wild card round.

A Zillow.com poll named Tebow America’s Most Desirable Neighbor, and anyone who has sat through one of Tebow’s press conferences (or read his autobiography) can see why. Whatever you think of his faith commitments, he’s the genuine article. He builds orphanages and visits with sick kids and deflects praise and plays the game like a kid whose parents wouldn’t let him go outside until all the chores were done.

Brady is the guy every teenage boy wants to be. Tebow is the guy every teenage boy’s mom wants him to be.

Both quarterbacks overcame low expectations. Brady was drafted in the sixth round and seemed destined to life as a backup until Drew Bledsoe was severely hurt in Brady’s second year. Tebow was drafted in the first round, a move that every expert opinion deemed a mistake.

Both emerged in breakout fashion. Brady’s first season as starter turned him into a famous football player. Tebow’s is turning him into a cultural phenomenon.

What’s the difference? Why is Tebow’s fame supercharged? Why does Brady get a Brentwood mansion with Gisele, but only a quaint house in heaven?

Recall that Brady’s rise happened in the fall after 9/11, which was also an era before media platforms were numbered like stars in the sky. The nation is in a different mood now, and for better or worse, we have new, more powerful ways of making people famous. Twitter, Facebook and a billion blogs helped Tebow saturate everything.

But the biggest difference is that, in Tebow’s case, religion is a factor. Brady, a cradle Catholic, became famous as an athlete. Tebow is becoming famous as an athlete, acolyte, and avatar all rolled into one.

Tebow the athlete is fun to watch with his passion and flashes of brilliance. Tebow the acolyte – the devoted follower of God – is easy to admire, and even those annoyed by public piety can be won over by his goodheartedness and the sheer joy with which he plays the game.

Perhaps most acutely, he’s a cultural avatar. The internet meme “Tebowing” took off because it’s a readymade symbolic gesture people can use to express themselves against our scoffing, serious times.

Brady is a great football player. Tebow is a great football story, and stories are immersive – they give us a chance to get involved, to see ourselves through them.

Tebow’s story tees up the questions that frame many people’s lives: Is God involved? Can he help us overcome? Can he help us win? What if he stops helping us – where is God when our critics are correct, when our flaws are exposed for everyone to see?

Saturday’s game will likely be the most-watched second round playoff game in NFL history. Millions will be watching because they want to see how the story will unfold, and the hero most of them will be rooting for is not the playboy, but the momma’s boy.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Sports

soundoff (1,294 Responses)
  1. Al

    The article says that Brady is "a cradle Catholic; however, I was told that he is a Lutheran. Was I misinformed?

    January 14, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  2. no fan of religion or of right-wingers

    Glad to hear that, Nutter. I am proud to have raised a good, smart, atheist, humanist son who hates football. As far as we are concerned, it's a game played by idiots for idiots.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • cjgcat

      LOL!! I had to read your post to my son, I could have wrote the exact same thing....

      January 14, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Nutter

    My mom would puke if I acted like Tebow.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  4. government cheese

    Go Tebow!!

    January 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  5. no fan of religion or of right-wingers

    I'm waiting for Tebow to come out of the closet, ha ha, and for the public deflation that will follow. My gay friends feel likewise. They find Tebow more than ridiculous.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  6. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Simple question: Would the fans also find it as heartwarming and inspiring if a player in the end zone after a touchdown made a personal and discrete gesture of thanks to Buddha? Would they rush to his defense? Just asking.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  7. John

    The best example of Tebowing was when Denver played the Lions. Every time Timmy got sacked, the Lion that sacked him tebowed. Hilarious!

    January 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  8. PraiseTheLard

    Tebow plays his game with the same certi.tude of mission and commitment as one of those suicide bombers in the middle east who's convinced he'll be received by Allah accompanied by a bevy of virgins...

    I see him as nothing more than an id1ot savant...

    January 14, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Science builds jet airplanes.
      Religion flies them into buildings.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • JFKINAZ

      Amen! Thank you! And the ones that copy him are just idiots!

      January 14, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • JFKINAZ

      Amen! Thank you! And the ones that copy him are just id1ots!

      January 14, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  9. lps

    Becky, i agree with you

    January 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  10. Mr Chihuahua

    I hope Tebow gets rampant dysentery lol!

    January 14, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Mr. Mex..........don't post if you have nothing constructive or polite to say.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • John

      Who says he's a Mex? I thought the comment was hilarious.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  11. Jacki

    I'm not a football fan, but as a Christian I see, hear, and read often about Tim Tebow. Christians seem to to find him to be some great athlete because of his heart for God. How do we even know how he lives behind closed doors? Anyone can claim to love God and pray in public for attention. It doesn't make him a "good Christian". I personally find all of his praying in public to be disingenuous. If all my Christian brothers and sisters were really concerned they would remember that part in the Bible about not praying in public to be seen and receive attention for yourself.

    January 14, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Tim lives his faith and always has.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • John

      I know a couple of girls that went to Florida with him and they said he is definitely NOT a virgin.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  12. Face

    Praying in public is vain. I do not like modern football anymore (just too many flags and commercials), but I hope Tebow is defeated.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • pockets

      Teebow believes in an invisible man in the sky, what does that tell you.....He's a wack job.

      January 14, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • James

      Face... don't be so stupid.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
  13. Soldier

    This stupid Tim Tebow coverage, attempting to get us all to believe that an invisible man in the sky is on Denver's side because they pray more, continues to be useless, uninspired, and banal.

    Religious people, keep your rants and raves out of our sports. Sports is supposed to be the one place the rest of us can find refuse from political and religious rants.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Mat

      Yeah you fnd "refuse". If Tebow wants to pray its his choice not yours.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
    • rjr fan

      “When man makes himself and his reason god over creation, he thereupon destroys all meaning in creation and leaves himself a chained and gibbering baboon, sitting in terror on a wired electric chair in the midst of a vast universe of nothingness.” ~R.J.R, the ArmEnian Calvinist

      Sorry your universe is uninhabited and meaningless. Mine is an incredible zesty quest.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Frank

      pray's aren't going to help him tonight there is no god in the sky

      January 14, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  14. Nate (Seattle, WA)

    Yeah, not everyone wants a son like Tebow. You religious bigots are aware that some people (a) don't believe in God, and (b) think those who publicly brandish their faith are intellectual terrorists?

    No, of course you guys aren't aware of that. In your minds, everyone thinks like you.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Mat

      Good for you. Just you dont believe there are lot of other who do. So please dont step on my toes.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  15. ready

    idk, my mom would want me to marry a super model and NOT worship a heresy religion that follows a alien god that lives on the planet Kolob.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Mat

      Best of luck.

      January 14, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  16. help wanted qp!

    gaybo does not stand a chance

    January 14, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  17. Really-O?

    Chad is Edward Current! Chad is Edward Current! Chad is Edward Current!

    I'm so sorry for busting your chops for so long Chad (uh, Edward)...I mistook your veiled irony and satire for ignorance. Please forgive me.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Imagine

      @Really-O? – So, who is Chad?

      January 14, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  18. Chris

    I heard once that if Jesus Christ is the son of god than Brady must be one of his nephews.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  19. in the year 4012

    The bible says that 2000 years ago Tebowus Christ sacrificed his career for us on this day and was cruelly sacked by the opposing defense after he did four useless Hail Mary's that were intercepted on the cruel field so that we can be free of sin. He rose again after being ground in the dirt by that tackle but still lost the game.

    Those damn smart atheist liberals might ask embarrassing questions about why his omnipotent coach-daddy up high couldn't pull him from the game early before his butt got kicked while still saving us from sin but just ignore them and put your money in the collection plate. Bless ya'll thank y'all.

    Same old same old.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
  20. Fnordz

    "Brady is the guy every teenage boy wants to be. Tebow is the guy every teenage boy’s mom wants him to be."
    What an arrogant thing to say.... as if EVERY teenage boy gives a rat's A$$ about American football or the overpaid athletes who play it.

    January 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • James

      It's not just teenagers who want to be like Brady.

      January 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Becky

      I think your taking that comment to personally. It doesn't have to be football. Every teenage boy wants to be the guy that is good looking, talented and has all the girls, and money is a bonus. All mom's want their boys to be nice, down-to-earth, thinking of others first kind of men. I don't think that is arrogent at all, I think that is total truth.

      I think this article is great. It isn't putting Brady down, it is investigating why Tebow is so fascinating to so many.

      January 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.